Kiosk the Right Medicine for Busy Consumers

Discussion
Feb 08, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Fill ‘er up is about to take on a whole new meaning.


A Giant Food store in Reston, Virginia is testing a self-service kiosk that will enable registered consumers to obtain refills on their prescription medicines.


Brad Dayton, director of pharmacy systems for Giant Food equates the kiosk to Hertz’s #1 Club Gold service.


“When you rent a car under that program,” he told Progressive Grocer magazine, “it’s ready for you with your name flashing on a board. You just pick it up and go, and you’re in and out in five minutes. From a pharmacy perspective, nobody’s offering this in the area.”


The kiosks called the ScriptCenter are made by Asteres, Inc. out of San Diego. The units require a one-time customer registration process where shoppers are given a username and password for future use.


Pharmacists deposit prescription med refills into the machine as requested and customers retrieve them at their convenience. The kiosks could be configured to run 24/7 if desired.


“It’s a way to extend the pharmacy’s hours of service,” said Mr. Dayton. “The grocery store is open a few more hours than the pharmacy. The kiosk gives refill patients a couple more hours in the evening and one more hour in the morning to pick up their medication. Customers who are hurried on the way to work can still get their prescriptions without the pharmacist being there.”


The kiosk is quite large so stores considering an installation would need space. The unit being tested in the Giant Food store is six feet wide and more than six and a half feet tall, according to the Progressive Grocer report. It weighs 1,400 pounds and is bolted to the floor.


“It’s very secure — it would be next to impossible to break into the unit without creating a very large commotion,” said Mr. Dayton. “It has an ATM-like camera on it, so we’re able to see who’s using the machine, in case someone tries to access a prescription illegally.”


Moderator’s Comment: What is your reaction to the news Giant Food is testing a kiosk that could give consumers 24/7 access to their prescription medicine
refills? How will this and other kiosk technology reshape the retail store environment in the years to come?

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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16 Comments on "Kiosk the Right Medicine for Busy Consumers"


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M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 19 days ago
Kiosks are gaining popularity because they work. Their operating systems can be updated daily if necessary, they’re portable and can be installed or de-installed in a matter of hours, they can be personalized to match store decor, and they can perform a multitude of tasks. Kiosks are like computer software, infinitely useful and customizable, with new stuff coming down the pike every day. Additionally, the best ones do NOT require connection to the store’s communication backbone or database. (Full disclosure: I represent http://www.paycentersusa.com.) Most of us are familiar with the video arcades of a few years ago, and with the entertainment areas at Chuck E. Cheese. They were great babysitters, but what impressed me most about them was their infinite variety and constant new product. Old machines out — new machines in. They were entertainment kiosks, predating today’s kiosks that feature information, business, and services. Imagine the goofy floorspace in the fronts of retail stores between the checkstands and the front doors devoted to productive kiosks instead of ice freezers, gumball dispensers, and claw machines.… Read more »
Santhosh Jayakumar
Guest
Santhosh Jayakumar
15 years 19 days ago

While this will be a big convenience for customers, viability would be an issue since it requires a threshold value for refills which in turn would depend on prescription volume, demographic pattern of customers etc. Another stumbling block for the penetration of dispensing kiosks at retail is the need to get approval from individual state boards which makes the process a bit challenging.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
15 years 19 days ago

How can you argue against a system that delivers true value to the customer – assuming it is profitable?

Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
15 years 19 days ago

With the aging of America, pharmacy operations at retail are becoming more important than ever before. Retailers appreciate the margins and the fact that pharmacies bring consumers into the store, where more times than not, they make additional impulse purchases. The kiosk is a convenience. It eliminates lines. For the consumer that doesn’t have a question, for the consumer that doesn’t need advice and for the consumer who is in a hurry, this fulfills a need. If successful at Giant Food, don’t be surprised to see it replicated at many other large retailers.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
15 years 19 days ago

Great solution to the shortage of pharmacists. State pharmacy boards will be quick to respond, arguing that a prescription cannot be dispensed without a pharmacist present based on safety issues. As society ages and the average person is taking more prescriptions, the concern over drug interactions becomes a huge issue. Due to the number of specialists a person may visit, it is very easy for one specialist to prescribe a medication that can interact negatively with another medication the patient is already taking. Until we have a common database tracking all medications that is tied into every clinic, hospital, pharmacy, etc., we run a significant risk of drug interactions which could result in death. This is the argument used by many pharmacy boards and they have a very valid point since the pharmacist’s role is the last contact a patient will have prior to receiving the medication. The trade off becomes patient convenience versus patient safety and both sides have valid points.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 19 days ago

A terrific move, win-win all around. These days, computer error seems less common than human error on this sort of thing. If I recall correctly, barcode technology is already being used to match prescriptions with the right medications. There are serious shortages of pharmacists in many markets still, and I don’t see that going away. These kiosks would be great not only for off-hours, but during regular pharmacy hours. How many of us have stood in line for 15 minutes while the person in front of us is having an insurance problem the pharmacist cannot solve? Having a kiosk alternative would be great at a time like that. This should provide Giant with some short-term differentiation, until everybody copies them.

Bill Bishop
Guest
Bill Bishop
15 years 19 days ago

I think this is a brilliant idea. Everybody except the people in New Jersey pumps their own gas. Self-service and being in control is the order of the day. This kiosk is a win for the shopper and an opportunity to offload work from the already busy pharmacy when someone really doesn’t need to talk to a pharmacist. This idea should explode into the marketplace with uniquely positive results all the way around.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 19 days ago

I believe that Rite-Aid and possibly others are also testing prescription kiosks. State pharmacy laws are largely based on the theory that a skilled professional will counsel people and look out for drug interactions. It’s obvious that many? — most? — prescription dispensing is pure routine with no counseling. State laws inflate prescription costs unnecessarily. Legit mail order and on-line domestic pharmacies do almost no counseling and bricks-and-mortar pharmacies often allow refills by automated phone systems. Eliminating the make-work pharmacist laws would save our country billions. Many countries allow ordinary customers to walk into a drug store and exit with the drugs they need, without any doctor’s prescription. Most of the time both pharmacists and doctor-written prescriptions are unnecessary.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 19 days ago

There once was a retail kiosk

That dispensed drugs such as Vioxx.

It served patients quickly,

No lines to make them prickly,

‘Twas a nice unorthodox pillbox.

But the paradox of cautioness appears

As regulatory bodies express fears.

Let’s trust it keeps procedures true,

That there will be no unwanted snafu,

And it can produce profitable cheers.

George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
15 years 19 days ago

While operating these kiosks is still slightly cumbersome, the ScriptCenter pharmacy kiosks by Asteres have been used for some time here in the San Diego area. Customers love the convenience and ability to pick-up their prescriptions after hours. This is an idea that benefits the retailer as well as their customers. Who could ask for more?

John Kill
Guest
John Kill
15 years 19 days ago

I know very little about Pharmacy operations or regulations, but as an outsider looking in, my first thoughts about this are in terms of security. Where exactly do they put these kiosks? If they are 24/7 accessible, I would presume they are sticking out of an exterior wall? Maybe in a drive through lane? Cameras don’t prevent people from getting mugged at ATM machines. What risks will people take getting Sudafed or other hot black-market meds refilled at a kiosk after dark? I know I’d sure be looking over my shoulder.

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 19 days ago

Kiosks are the wave of the future! Prescription drugs, ordering computers, online specialty orders, etc. are all an extension of increased customer service, disintermediation, and the “morphing” of retail as it adopts to the tools which the Internet provides.

Add to this self-service checkouts, and we have the natural, electronic extension of self-service selection which Ben Franklin stores, Wal-Mart, SS Kresge and others pioneered during the late 50’s and early 60’s.

We can expect to see more in-store connectivity to the Internet so that consumers can order special items from a store’s website, as well as more kiosks which offer specialty goods, prescriptions, pre-paid items, etc. This defrays inventory costs, increases customer selection and satisfaction. The key is making them user friendly, and enhancing the customer experience so that the consumer will continue to come into the store rather than just shop online!

Jeremy Sacker
Guest
Jeremy Sacker
15 years 19 days ago

We are a changing society, one where convenience is more important than customer service. So why should prescriptions be any different? Some people will say – “But it could increase the chance of errors” or “patients will not be able to ask the pharmacist questions.” We are really talking about replacing the clerk behind the counter, not the pharmacist. To the second point, we are talking about refills, and we have the web based medical advice from our insurers as well as our clinic’s nurse on call.

This is a good thing. As a frequent traveler to Europe, I am often reminded how nice convenience is (most shops still close at 5:30, even large chains). Think back 20 or so years when nothing was open on Sunday and most shops closed at 5 or 5:30. It is nice to see another added convenience.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 19 days ago

Let me refer you back to yesterday’s comments about potential for criminal activity. And the one about putting ibuprofen behind the counter. And several earlier discussions about putting other meds containing the makings of methamphetamine behind the counter. Bla bla bla. How long do you think it will be before there is an epidemic of vandalism and theft in these cute little kiosks and endless debates about whether convenience for the vast majority of customers outweighs illicit activities by the minority?

Matt Werhner
Guest
Matt Werhner
15 years 19 days ago

This seems like a very good idea which, if proven profitable, should catch on quickly. Younger, tech-savvy consumers will likely embrace the technology. The older generation will need additional customer service that: 1) demonstrates how to use the kiosk and 2) puts them at ease to develop assurance and trust in the technology.

The consumer will not feel alienated from the pharmacist because he/she will still be available to answer questions. In fact, this should free up more time for the Pharmacy Technicians and the Pharmacists. Convenience and self-service are what consumers are asking for and this technology is a good response to those requests.

Dave Wendland
Guest
15 years 17 days ago

Increasing access to healthcare and reducing cost of care will continue to be the focus of our country. Moving to kiosk technology, in-store clinics and improved availability of consumer-selected treatments will remain on the fast track.

I think this is good for retail in general and very good for consumer in particular. The key will be educating consumers on how to use the systems and technology, and ensuring privacy in the process.

I will be watching all of this exciting new technology unfold in the coming years.

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